When my wife, Barbara, and I spoke our vows two Sundays ago, with Reverend Meredith’s prompting, we made promises to each other. The words matter, but their real meaning comes from the feeling behind them and the intent to fulfill them. The care, love, and connection between us gives life to the words “love and cherish.” The same is true with the covenants created in our faith community.
Our wedding ceremony was a combination of Jewish and Unitarian Universalist traditions. Interestingly, both religions are covenantal faiths. Judaism refers to the covenant with God, which is interpreted in different ways depending upon how the person perceives God, from the more literal supreme being to, alternatively, a sense of connection with oneself and the world. In Unitarian Universalism, when we say we are a covenantal faith, we mean that our sense of meaning is dependent upon our agreements with one another. It is our covenanting that holds us in community around our values and way of being together, in the midst of our diversity of beliefs.
The year in Religious Education begins with our first classes this Sunday. The children, youth, and teachers will start in the sanctuary where we will have an RE Covenanting during the service. We will all say out loud the commitment we are making to one another to be in this Religious Education Ministry together. The congregation will promise to surround children, youth, and teachers with a loving supportive community in which to thrive. Volunteer teachers will promise to be present, available, and engaged. This is the essence of what we can ask of each other.
When the classes create their own covenants, we explain to the children and youth that these are not rules; they are agreements we make with each other about how we are going to be together. Each person is committing to this agreement and is a part of the process. Our ideas on how we should go about being together may shift somewhat over time, but our ultimate commitment is that we are going to present to one another in a supportive way. We are going to work through our differences in a way that will enable us to thrive, even when that is difficult. Much like a good marriage, our sense of community is based on that intent and the continual renewal of finding ways to come together.